bellyQ, Bill Kim's third "Belly" restaurant, is almost here (rumor is they start mock service next week), so TOC took a few minutes to talk to Peter Vestinos, the bartender-turned-consultant (and Chicagoan-turned-Californian) who's behind the barbecue spot's drinks program. "Right from the beginning, chef [Kim] has always told me: Think in fives," Vestinos said. What does it mean to "think in fives" for a beverage program? It means things will be pretty simple, and very streamlined. Some noteworthy details:
- There will be five cocktails. These drinks will be distinguished by a few characteristics: They will lean ever-so-slightly sweet (to help take the edge off the spicy food), they won't be overly complicated ("If something's complex on the plate, you really want to make it simpler in the glass," Vestinos says), they'll be lower in alcohol (stronger drinks would just taste "hot" pitted against spicy food, Vestinos reasons) and they will feature Asian ingredients like aloe, vinegar, yuzu, sake, sesame leaf, basil seed, chai tea, coconut milk, vietnamese cinnamon, shochu...stuff like that. (An example, pictured above, is the #8 [the cocktails are all named with numbers, like a Chinese takeout menu], which is something of an Asian mojito: sake, yuzu, sesame leaf, cane sugar, mango and basil seeds.)
- There will be five beers on tap, five in cans and five large-format. The beers on draft will be local to Chicagoland (Three Floyds, 5 Rabbit, Solemn Oath, etc), the beers in cans will be domestic and the large format beers will be Asian and/or "Asian influenced."
- There will only be five wines—and they shall remain nameless. Four of those wines will be on tap, will be priced $8/glass, $24/half-liter, $45/liter, and will be identified like so:
Tap #1 – White – Lean and Clean
Tap #2 – White – Round and Lush
Tap #3 – Red – Light and Easy
Tap # 4 – Red – Bold and Rich
The wines will rotate often, but you'll never know it, because they'll never be named. (The fifth wine will be a sparkling, available as a split for $12.)
- In addition to these lists of five, there will be a sake list and a full bar.
After hearing about all this, I was compelled to ask Vestinos: Isn't this kind of risky? The wine list alone has the potential to infuriate a certain breed of diner. (I can see the Yelp reviews already.) Vestino laughed and said, "I think a lot of this is risky. The risk is that we don't have a lot of choices. People like a lot of choices. But we focused our selection. We focused it with the intention of: What we have goes with the food, goes with the concept. It's a product that we believe in."
Sounds fair to me. We'll see how the rest of the public responds when bellyQ opens in a couple weeks.
With National S'mores Day on the horizon (it's Friday, August 10), you may be feeling the itch to roast some marshmallows over an open flame. You could use the fire pit in your backyard if you wanted to, or head to a park and set up a grill. I mean, that's how the Girl Scouts—who invented the confection—do it. But if there's anything I've learned this summer, it's that open fires and million-degree weather aren't cute together. So just let somebody else make that s'more, okay? There are more than a few places willing to hook you up:
Truffle Truffle has s'mores down to a science, so you better believe they'll be celebrating. As we mentioned in this week's print mag, Fleur flower shop in Logan Square is hosting Truffle Truffle for a day-long pop-up-shop. There will be several treats, including the chocolate-covered shortbread s'mores and a travel-ready s'mores cake jar. The sale happens from 11am to 4pm.
Also featuring a more refined version of s'mores is Angel Food Bakery, whose version of the treat comes with marshmallows and homemade graham crackers dipped in chocolate. For those of you more inclined to munch on cake, Sprinkles has a decadent s'mores cupcake with graham-cracker crust, chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and a toasted marshmallow topping. You'll need a napkin, but it'll be worth it. While you're there, check out Sprinkle's new Cupcake ATM. Because it's fancy and novel (we think?). Finish your S'mores Day with a s'mores tart at Uncommon Ground on Clark: rich chocolate ganache in a graham-cracker crust topped with bruleed marshmallow.
What? You can't leave the house for some melted marshmallows? Sucks to be you, but here's a consolation prize: A slideshow of s'mores, including s'mores donuts and s'mores pizzas, brought to you by Time Out Chicago Kids.
The brothers and chefs behind Trenchermen, Mike and Pat Sheerin, are getting on the brunch bandwagon. Every Sunday from 10am–2pm, beginning Sunday August 26, they'll be doing brunch a little—no, a lot—differently. Following the restaurant’s casual-yet-upscale M.O., expect traditional brunch flavors presented in unconventional ways. Breakfast hash is on the menu, but instead of the traditional corned beef, Trenchermen’s version includes duck confit, potatoes, fried duck eggs and duck jus. Some of the flavors are less traditional. Like, way less. Pad thai for breakfast? At Trenchermen, why not? The "Pig Skin Noodle Lobster Pad Thai" features radishes, Thai basil, cucumbers and tamarind. (Sort of like you’re hungover and eating last night’s leftovers, only more awesome?) And no Sunday brunch would be complete without a little hair of the dog, but don’t go expecting your run-of-the-mill bloody. Cocktails like the Better Than Advil (tequila, cucumber, jardinière) and the Funky Chicken (Mexican lollipop rye, lemon jam, gumball head) will be served along with La Colombe Pure Black cold-brewed coffee and Malort on tap.
What we know of the menu so far:
Pig Skin Noodle Lobster Pad Thai – Radish, Thai Basil, Cucumber, Tamarind
Kimchee Mortadella Sandwich – Onion Roll, Cheddar, Rice
Sauerkraut Bagel – Mustard Cream Cheese, Smoked Fish
Duck Confit Hash – Duck Confit, Potato, Fried Duck Egg, Duck Jus
Better Than Advil – Tequila, Cucumber, Jardiniere
High Tea – Carbonated Dolin Blanc Iced Tea
Funky Chicken – Mexican Lollipop Rye, Lemon Jam, Gumball Head
Since moving her confection-making operation to 2745 W Armitage Ave in 2010, Katherine Duncan has had designs on turning the production space into a retail storefront for Katherine Anne Confections, her line of caramels, marshmallows and chocolates. Now that vision is a little more than a month away from being realized: The storefront will open to the public on September 13.
"Our goal has always been to make the best truffles you could possibly ever, ever have," says Duncan. (We're fond of her caramels and marshmallows, too, both of which have made our 100 Best Things We Ate lists.) The retail storefront will provide Duncan an opportunity to expand her line of truffles, with new caramels and chocolates each week, as well as rotating seasonal flavors and potential specials, like truffles designed by well-known Chicago chefs. In addition to truffles, caramels and marshmallows, the shop will make French-inspired hot chocolate—"the really thick sipping chocolate," as Duncan describes it—and give the option of melting a truffle of your choice (e.g., chai-tea or apricot-basil) into the hot chocolate. (Of course, the drink can also be topped with one of Duncan's handmade marshmallows, which come in flavors like pink-lemonade and vanilla-black pepper.) In addition, there will be French-press (and only French press) coffee service, from a yet-to-be-determined local roaster.
The shop will seat 14 people, with table-tops built from reclaimed wood, walls featuring local artists and the sweets all on view on a big sweets table—rather than a pastry case. "I'm really excited," Duncan says. "I think the people who are living here are ready to not have to go way out of Logan Square to get good chocolate."
Katherine Anne Confections (2745 W Armitage Ave, katherine-anne.com) is slated to open Sept 13 and will be open Tue–Fri 11am–7pm, Sat 10am–7pm (closed Sun, Mon).
Sweet Charity Smith ofis excited about her food truck, Brand On The Run, but she’s terrified to take it to the streets. Not because it’s a mammoth, 27-foot-long, wood-paneled work van, but instead because of the strict new laws governing food trucks.
“We have a ton of people that are asking, ‘Are you going to come to the Loop?'” she says. “And you know, we would love to, but we’re not gonna put ourselves out there and expose ourselves to that because the city can fine up to $2000.” Smith also feels taking the truck out on runs would only worsen the already abominable parking conditions for trucks. “We’re not going to show up at eight in the morning to battle a truck for a spot," Smith says, "because in all honesty, a lot of those trucks don’t have storefronts, and the whole point of the food truck culture is to stick together and be supportive of each other. Everyone needs to make money and wants to make money and a scenario where there are only ten spots with 50 trucks? That would cause problems, that’ll cause fights. And I don’t want that. None of us want that."
Needless to say, Smith wasn’t anticipating the storm of controversy that took place this summer surrounding food trucks. Her business partner, Drew Masur, bought the truck at the end of last fall and used social media to stir up interest and support. With the help of Facebook fans, they settled on the name Brand On The Run. The truck officially launched for private parties and events in July, which is how Smith said they plan to use the truck until the law offers more flexibility. “We want people to see the truck and we want people to enjoy it because everybody loves looking at it, but in the same regard, we don’t want to get screwed over,” Smith says.
As for the future, Smith will be at events slinging her barbecue and hopes to see changes in the law. “I have to believe that like any law, things will continue to evolve. Because they have to. Because otherwise, street food culture and food-truck culture won't make it.”
For a taste of the Brand On The Run, visit the truck this Saturday, August 4, at Heritage Bicycles General Store (2959 N Lincoln Ave) from noon–2pm and and then at Koval Distillery (5121 N Ravenswood Ave) from 2:30pm to 5pm. Check out the truck's menu after the jump.
Brand BBQ Food Truck menu
Pulled Pork $7
Beef Brisket $8
Pulled Chicken $7
Pulled Pork Taco $3
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese $3
Portabella Sandwich $6
BBQ Chips $1
(Payment may be by cash or credit card at time or ordering)
Chicago's newest food truck is The Little Salad Truck. The truck, which according to its Twitter page launched today, is the brainchild of Yale Class of 2012 alums Jerry Choinski and Etkin Tekin. The truck was first conceptualized as The Little Salad Shop in New Haven, Conn. and served salads, wraps and smoothies. Illinois native Choinski saw Chicago as an opportune market for a salad chain and hopes to open storefront locations in the city by the end of the year. The truck serves pre-made salads from the "Classics" menu, but also will make you your own salad, allowing customers to create their own combinations from more than 45 ingredients and 17 dressings, then pick up the salad the next day. For updates on the location of the truck, check its tweets.
If you missed the chance to get your Lollapalooza tickets before they were snatched up, it's not too late. Falafill has a pair of three-day passes up for grabs along with a $75 Falafill gift card. Enter online before 11:59pm tonight and you'll have a shot at them. Over the weekend, the Adams location of Falafill will be open special hours from 10:30am to midnight to accomidate the Lolla munchies.
Carriage House, the upcoming project from chef Mark Steuer, is still aiming for a September 1 opening. But do you really want to wait that long to see what's on the menu? That's what we thought. So we've put a draft (no promises) of the (punctuationless) menu, full of traditional—and some not-so-traditional—Southern-inspired dishes, after the jump.
[Ed. note: Welcome back to Lunch Meets, our weekly online column where TOC's Food & Drink intern, John Irvine, infiltrates the anonymous lunch masses in the Loop and asks the tough food questions. This week, to coincide with our cheap eats feature on tacos, John asks the men and women of the street this question: What is your relationship with tacos? Find the answers—and find out why corn tortillas reign supreme—after the jump.]
If you’ve dreamed for your day in the spotlight as a mixologist (read: bougie bartender), your day is near. Through August 6 at Public Hotel, put your best drink recipe forward for the chance to win $1,000 and to a featured spot on the Pump Room’s Seasonal Specialty Cocktail Menu. Each recipe must contain at least one spirit over 40 percent alcohol-by-volume, but spruce it up with fruits, garnishes and presentation. After the public picks the top three drinks, a panel of judges will choose the winner. So check out the rules, submit your entry and step up to the bar.
Some people see Lollapalooza as the pinnacle of the Chicago summer, with its three days of partying, top-notch lineup, and, most importantly, hipsters babies in headphones. Others see it as a cesspool of sweaty crowds, expensive beer and porta-potties. So, for those in the latter category (or those smart enough to eat during the fest), there are still other—albeit, less thrilling—ways to celebrate Chicago’s big weekend.
Magnolia Bakery is serving a Lolla cupcake in vanilla or chocolate, topped with the festival’s iconic blue and orange colors Friday through Sunday. For each cupcake sold, Magnolia plans to donate $1 to Rock for Kids, a non-profit that provides music education to children in need.
If you think you'll need some protein to make it through the marathon that is Lolla, head to Brasserie by LM on Saturday or Sunday during the festival for a $15 burger-and-beer special.
The Florentine looked to the diets of artists including vegan Ozzy Osbourne and carnivore Calvin Harris when constructing its Lollapalooza menu. The specials available Friday through Sunday include vegan options, steaks, octopus, melons and specialty cocktails.
Lockdown Bar & Grill is also drawing inspiration from Black Sabbath, more specifically the song, “War Pigs.” The burger is constructed from bacon, Angus beef, prosciutto and carnitas and is obviously not-so vegan.
Or, maybe you want the best of both worlds and bought a one-day pass. Head to any of I Dream of Falafel's three loop locations on Friday or Saturday and present your wristband to get a wrap and a drink for $5.
We've been licking our chops ever since reading The Feed in this week's magazine—highlighting six spots around town that really know how to serve up a great cake. That inspired us to take on the torturous task of sifting through dozens of photos of cupcakes for this week's edition of TOC Foodspotting Fridays.
Wondering what Foodspotting is? It's a social network for foodies, where you can find and recommend dishes, not just restaurants. Follow us on Foodspotting and spot your favorite dishes, or follow our guides, including Sweet Scoops and Best Bar Food.
[Ed. note: Welcome back to Lunch Meets, our weekly online column where TOC's Food & Drink intern, John Irvine, infiltrates the anonymous lunch masses in the Loop and asks the tough food questions. This week, to coincide with our story on retro icebox cakes, John asks the men and women of the street this question: What was the dessert of your childhood? The answer—and why everybody is thinking ice cream—is after the jump.]
PT isn't the only summer pop-up in town: Two more are, uh, popping up this weekend. On Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22 Lush Wine & Spirits in West Town hosts a couple TRU veterans, chef Tim Graham (now at Paris Club) and mixologist Adam Seger (now of Hum). The concept is a combination restaurant and gastropup; the menu is comprised of a seven-course tasting menu with drink pairings. You could say the menu was built in reverse: Graham chose to build his menu from Seger's drinks.
Also happening on Sunday 22 is a collaboration between Sunday Dinner and Azimuth Projects, where Sunday Dinner will present their famous farmers' market burger (pictured) at an outdoor art event. (The somewhat steep price of $20 includes a side dish. And the art.)
Lush Wine & Spirits Pop-up Gastro-Bar July 21-22, 6-10pm. 1412 W Chicago Ave (312-666-6900). $9-49.
Sunday Dinner Club Pop-Up Backyard Burgers July 22, 4-8pm. 2704 N Whipple St (sundaydinnerbbq.eventbrite.com). $20.
My obsession with the Olympics is predetermined—I was literally born as the Olympics were playing in the hospital waiting room. But serendipity aside, how can anybody hate the saccharine patriotism and benevolence that the games inspire? And have you seen those P&G videos about raising Olympians? Killer.
Luckily, many Chicago restaurants and bars agree that this joyous occasion that comes every two years is reason to celebrate, and you don't have to wait to start your celebrations. The Anthem is hosting Olympic trivia on Tuesdays through August 14th with specials on domestic beers.
The Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club is hosting an Opening Ceremony viewing party on July 27 complete with an America-themed martini and drag show. Mahoney’s is also having a viewing party during the ceremony, but on Saturday July 28; the Summer Bar Olympic Games will be played. Pong, flippy cup, bags and more will determine who takes home the gold.
If you don’t make it out to these, Moonshine Brewing Company will hold the Beerlympics from the July 27 to August 12. Each day, a different beer region from around the world will be on highlighted, and the favorite will be crowned victorious during the Closing Ceremonies and remain on special. Also offering daily food-and-drink specials is Division Ale House. Because nothing is more patriotic than cheap-ish burgers booze.
If food is your libation of choice, Sidebar Grille has an Olympic Burger Menu during the games. Some highlights are the Japan (grilled tuna burger with soy-ginger mayo and cucumber salad) and the Sweden burgers (veal sirloin burger with apricot jam and pickled cucumbers.) And if you don't feel like leaving the house, West Town Tavern is offering 20 percent off carry-out orders during the games.
But perhaps you're more of a marathoner. In that case, make it to all seven of Four-Star Restaurant Group's restaurants during the month of August to be entered to win round-trip airfare to London.
If you aren’t on the balance beam, in the pool or at the starting line, represent America in the next best way: eating and drinking.
The speculation that Bleeding Heart Bakery & Café’s West Town location was in turmoil is now a confirmed fact: After closing time on July 22, the location will no longer be associated with the BHB brand—which of course includes Michelle and Vinny Garcia. Upon reopening on July 28, owners Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner (Roots Handmade Pizza) will reopen the space as West Town Bakery & Diner. Those seeking Michelle and Vinny can hit up their new Belmont location.
At yesterday's Green City Market BBQ, One Off Hospitality (Blackbird, Avec, the Publican, etc) represented with barbacoa. Traditionally, barbacoa—Mexico's answer to barbecue—happens when you rub beef (or another protein) with chilies and spices, throw it into a huge, smoldering barbecue pit in the ground, and let it sit there for half a day. Almost no restaurant makes it like that anymore. But on Wednesday afternoon a group of chefs from Publican Quality Meats led by Erling Wu Bower started digging in the yard of a suburban home in Long Grove. When the pit was ready, they doused it with lighter fluid, lit a flame, waited for the flame to die and then tossed in about 400 pounds of marinated steer. Then they covered the entire thing with cattails, burlap and sheet trays to trap the heat; filled the pit with dirt; and crossed their fingers. It would be fourteen hours later until they knew if it was a success. Which, of course, it was. The shredded beef was served on house-made foccacia and covered in cherry-tomato salsa verde and was, according to one TOC employee who was lucky enough to try one, "the best the BBQ had to offer."
[Ed. note: Welcome back to Lunch Meets, our weekly online column where TOC's Food & Drink intern, John Irvine, infiltrates the anonymous lunch masses in the Loop and asks the tough food questions. This week, to coincide with our cover story on summer drinking, John asks the men and women of the street this question: what makes the perfect margarita? The answer seems to be gin. And tonic.]
You know the drill—every year, pretty much the whole city of Chicago heads over to the Taste to consume as much food as humanly possible. Of course, in a festival as massive as the Taste, it's hard to know where to spend your money (or tickets, as the case may be). So we sifted through some of the booths for you, and here's our take on the best—and the worst—the Taste has to offer.
Damn if this isn't the most random piece of news we've heard in a long time: Last night, Rhapsody—the go-to restaurant for Chicago Symphony Orchestra lovers and one of the only fine-dining options in the Loop—closed.
(I'll wait while you make a mental joke about a violin wailing. What? You said that joke out loud? Oh, wow.)
There's almost no news about what will replace Rhapsody other than a name and a projected opening date: Tesori is slated to open in the space in September.
Answers to your burning questions:
- Will Tesori be Italian? Probably.
- Will Dean Zanella (pictured) still be the chef? No. But honestly, that's okay with me—his talents never seemed to gel with that space anyway. Get that man a smallish neighborhood restaurant!
- Will I post more details here if I get any? Certainly!